‘Curiouser and curiouser’ (Island Editorial)
That the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is going hell for leather to throw some members of the Rajapaksas clan behind bars is only too well known. Its leaders made various allegations against their predecessors before the last two elections, but they have so far failed to prove at least a single charge. This does not mean the leaders of the previous administration are paragons of virtue. Public perception is that the previous administration was one of the most corrupt regimes in the post-Independence era and one cannot but endorse that widely held view.
Crooks who amassed a great deal of ill-gotten wealth under the last government are still free because the present-day leaders have failed to get their act together; they have only launched Gestapo style probes to achieve their political objectives. Haste, especially when it is politically motivated, is counterproductive in netting rogues responsible for the theft of public funds. The self-proclaimed champions of good governance including many crooks who had crossed over from the Rajapaksa government, made a solemn pledge to bring the corrupt elements of the previous administration to justice within days of forming a government; now, they are faced with the uphill task of making good on its promise to bring back USD 18 billion which, people were told, had been stashed away in offshore accounts by their opponents and trace ‘the golden horse’, which is said to have been brought here all the way from Buckingham Palace.
Curiously, the Attorney General’s Department has withdrawn indictments against former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who was arraigned on a charge of misappropriating Divineguma funds to print millions of almanacs in the run-up to the last presidential polls. One is intrigued.
Carttoon added by TW from internet
The AG’s Department has always had the dubious distinction of being in a mighty hurry to act against Opposition activists to please powers that be and it apparently does its damnedest to live up to that reputation! It is like the proverbial gypsy’s monkey, which somersaults when its master tugs at the rope tied to its waist. Those who expected this circus to end after the change of government last year are disillusioned and disappointed.
The withdrawal of the indictment against Basil et al bolsters the argument in some quarters that the AG’s Department cannot be expected to act properly on the basis of the recent COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on the Central Bank bond scams to bring the culprits to justice; a shrewd lawyer can drive a coach and horses through the report which is not technically perfect. On the other hand, the AG’s Department, which examined a file on the bond scams, referred to it by the CID before the last general election, decided that there were no grounds for criminal charges. Worse, the file has been shelved!
The question is how wise it is to consult the Attorney General again on the same issue. Madness has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result! Hence, the call for a special presidential inquiry into the COPE findings, with a senior sitting judge as its head, must be heeded. The issue at hand is too serious to be left entirely to the AG’s Department.
The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the AG’s Department must act responsibly without rushing to humour their political masters. Justice delayed is, no doubt, justice denied. But, it is also true that justice hurried is justice buried. It is thanks to the inefficiency of the police and the AG’s Department that the conviction rate remains as low as four percent in this country. President Sirisena stirred a hornets’ nest when he, a few weeks ago, named the FCID as one of the institutions which worked according to a political agenda. But, he has told the truth!
State prosecutors who cannot file an indictment properly are not worth their salt. The AG’s Department must stop wasting the precious time of the judiciary and causing an erosion of pubic faith in the legal process.